This article is from
Creation 44(2):7–11, April 2022

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Focus 44(2)

creation news and views

Crab captured in amber

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“The specimen is spectacular, it is one of a kind. It’s absolutely complete and is not missing a single hair on the body, which is remarkable”. These are the words lead author Javier Luque used to describe Cretapsara athanata, the first crab from the ‘Cretaceous dinosaur era’ preserved in amber (fossil tree resin), and the most complete fossil crab ever found. Despite being ‘dated’ at around 100 million years, 3-D scans showed it to be modern-looking.

The amber preserved delicate features such as antennae, compound eyes, and mouthparts covered in minute hairs. It even preserved the well-developed gills which meant the small crab was most likely water-dwelling. Plant material and insect faeces were also found in the same amber lump (c. 20 mm × 7 mm). “How then did a 100 million year old aquatic animal become preserved in tree amber, which normally houses land-dwelling specimens?”

For evolutionists, such a question leads to many ‘it might have’ stories. Of course, they would be aware that to preserve the crab in such a complete state the resin would have to engulf it quickly. Today’s generally slow trickle of resin from trees would never suffice.

The conditions found in the Noahic Flood around 4,500 years ago readily account for all aspects of this find. The obvious one is finding an aquatic crab in resin from a tree, alongside terrestrial plant and insect material. As forests were ripped up and carried by the floodwaters, huge rafts of trees crashed into each other. The damaged trees were bleeding abnormally copious amounts of their sticky resin, which quickly enveloped the items it contacted. This also explains the existence of large amber deposits, such as the ones mined in Myanmar from which this specimen came.

  • Harvard University, International team of researchers discover first dinosaur era crab fully preserved in amber; oeb.harvard.edu, 20 Oct 2021.
  • Luque, J. and 6 others, Crab in amber reveals an early colonization of nonmarine environments during the Cretaceous, Science Advances 7:43, 20 Oct 2021.

Darwin’s dilemma remains, amid sponge fossil debate

David Burdick / NOAA, Public Domain16092-sponge

The evidence of layer upon layer of fossil-filled rock strata around the world fits beautifully with the creationist view. I.e., they are a legacy of the global Flood of Noah’s day about 4,500 years ago, and its aftermath.

But the evolutionary view of the layers being a ‘fossil record’ of evolution over millions of years is often thwarted by evolutionarily awkward evidence. E.g. ‘out-of-order’ fossils, and gaps. Charles Darwin expressed his puzzlement as to “the question of why we do not find rich fossiliferous deposits belonging to … periods prior to the Cambrian”.

Laurentian University (Sudbury, Canada) Professor of Earth Sciences, Elizabeth C. Turner, recently wrote: “This conundrum, known as Darwin’s dilemma, remains tantalizing and unresolved 160 years after the publication of On the Origin of Species.”

Note that it’s not for lack of trying. Professor Turner herself reported sponge fossils in Precambrian rocks of north-west Canada, ‘dated’ to 890 million years. From an evolutionary perspective this would make it “Earth’s earliest known animal”, and Turner reckons it “may provide a new perspective on Darwin’s dilemma.” (Note that she is careful not to say it solves it.) However, some paleontologists are hotly disputing whether the microscopic patterns in Turner’s fossils are from sponges at all, and might simply be left behind by microbes, or from crystals.

Acknowledging the objections, Turner expects “lively controversy to ensue”, and that it might be “years in the future” before there is any consensus. “Until then,” she says, “enjoy the debate!” However, for the creationist scientist there is no dilemma.

  • Turner, E.C., Possible poriferan body fossils in early Neoproterozoic microbial reefs, Nature 596:87–91, 2021.
  • Turner, E.C., A new fossil discovery may add hundreds of millions of years to the evolutionary history of animals, theconversation.com, 17 Oct 2021.

Brain genes produce multiple proteins each

When scientists managed to decode the human DNA, they identified some 20,000 genes that code for proteins. This surprised them because humans produce many more proteins than this. It became clear that genes must code for multiple proteins, not just one each.

A study of brain tissue has found that some 13,000 genes produce over 30,000 different mRNAs. (mRNA is a copy of the DNA that codes directly for a protein). This is far more proteins than was previously thought.

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The genes of more complex organisms are comprised of segments called exons and introns. The introns lie between the exons. The whole gene is copied to RNA and then edited to remove the introns (‘spliced’ with a phenomenally complex machine called a ‘spliceosome’—creation.com/splicing) to produce the protein-coding mRNA—or so it was thought.

This study of brain tissue reinforces that different mRNAs can be produced in various ways. Most commonly the splicing skips the first exon, or skips another exon, or includes an intron or uses an alternative last exon from another gene (in that order of frequency). Overall, the researchers found that over half of the genes produced more than one mRNA. Some produced mRNA transcripts for more than ten different proteins.

All this adds up to amazing complexity in the regulation of the genes. How do the cells decide how to edit each RNA (which protein to produce, and how much)? The mind boggles at the sophistication of the divine design that researchers are uncovering day by day. Stay tuned!

  • Leung, S.K. et al., Full-length transcript sequencing of human and mouse cerebral cortex, Cell Reports 37(7):110022, 16 Nov 2021.

Noah’s Ark on the moon?

A lunar ark, similar in principle to Noah’s Ark, has been proposed by a research team from the University of Arizona. The project leader, Jekan Thanga, has proposed to store the cryogenically frozen spores, seeds, and animal reproductive cells from all the 6.7 million known species on the planet today. At least 50 specimens from each species would be stored in a network of over 200 lava tubes under the moon’s surface. Thanga said that it would be a global insurance policy due to the earth’s fragile state.

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Christians have no need to fear, as God promised after the Noahic Flood, “Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease” (Genesis 8:21–22).

What is striking is that this team rather obviously understands the very clear historical description and task of the Ark during the Flood. Namely that it was to house representatives of all air-breathing land animals and birds to ensure their survival (Genesis 6:20). Of course, it makes sense that such an analogy (lunar ark) points to an original (Noah’s Ark).

  • Linder, C., Scientists are planning to build Noah’s Ark on the moon; popularmechanics.com, 31 Aug 2021.

A child of darkness

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A reconstruction of the skull of Leti in the hand of Professor Lee Berger. Black represents missing parts of skull.

“A child of darkness” was the ominous title of the media announcement on 4 November 2021 by Lee Berger from Wits University. A new juvenile skull (nicknamed Leti) had been discovered in the Rising Star cave system of South Africa. Berger has delivered impressive finds in the past, so this would be quite a letdown for anyone expecting something similar. As evident from the reconstruction of the Leti skull, most of it (black—see photo) is missing.

The skull was found in an extremely narrow passage, its fragmented remains “found on a shelf of limestone about 80 cm above the present cave floor.” There were “no signs of carnivore damage or damage by scavenging”. Nor was there “evidence of the skull having been washed into the narrow passage”. Hence, the main issue raised by the find is how Leti and the other Homo naledi specimens ended up in the inaccessible and cramped spaces of the cave. It remains a mystery, although the authors hypothesize “that it is likely other members of its species were involved in the skull reaching such a difficult place.”

Based on dental eruption, and the assumption that the child matured like a human, it was suggested Leti was about 4 to 6 years old at time of death. The dental morphology was said to support attribution to Homo naledi. Given the location of the find this attribution seems reasonable. Creation magazine (40(4): 36–38, 2018) has previously discussed Homo naledi individuals. They were post-Fall descendants of Adam, probably erectus-like post-Babel humans. Several of them possibly suffered from a developmental pathology known as cretinism, common in regions with iodine deficiency in the soils.

  • Wits University, A child of darkness, wits.ac.za, 4 Nov 2021.
  • Brophy, J.K. et al., Immature hominin craniodental remains from a new locality in the Rising Star cave system, South Africa, PaleoAnthropology 2021:1, pp. 1−14, 5 Nov 2021.

Conundrum of new dates on moon basalts

Rocks returned from the U.S. Apollo and Russian Luna missions many years ago gave ‘dates’ of about 4 billion years for the lighter-coloured highland rocks. In their evolutionary framework, this is roughly when the moon formed.

The darker, large impact craters on the moon’s near side are believed to have formed not long after this. These are called ‘maria’ (Latin for ‘seas’) since they are filled with dark basalt (cooled lava), which flooded them with magma from underground, released by the impact as lava. Some of that basalt was also dated, but it gave ‘only’ 3.8 to 3.1 billion years.

This is a conundrum. One would expect that the basalt, which erupts quickly, would rapidly fill the crater soon after impact. From the dates, however, they were forced to assume that the eruptions continued, forming fresh basalt, for almost a billion years after the impact.

The conundrum has intensified since Chinese scientists recovered basalt rocks from the maria, part of an estimated 2,000 km3 that erupted from the moon’s mantle. They ‘dated’ it at around two billion years. This means that the eruptions must have continued for some two billion years after the impact. But how can that be? The moon’s small size means any internal heat would have long since cooled in that time, solidifying the magma. The moon’s mantle also has very few heat-producing radioactive elements, so radioactivity cannot be invoked as a solution.

The simple alternative is that the moon is young, as the Bible indicates.

  • Che, X. et al., Age and composition of young basalts on the Moon, measured from samples returned by Chang’e-5, Science, 7 Oct 2021.
  • Samec, R.G., On the origin of lunar maria, J. Creation 22(3):101–108, 2008; creation.com/lunar-maria.
16096-moon© Elen33 | Dreamstime.com

Fossil horseshoe crab’s brain

It was “a one-in-a-million find, if not rarer,” said evolutionary paleontologist Russell Bicknell of the University of New England in Armidale, Australia. Bicknell was referring to the three-dimensionally fossilized brain of an extinct species of horseshoe crab, Euproops danae.

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Reports were quick to add, “For many animals, including the crabs, fossils of their soft tissues are extremely uncommon because the tissues tend to degrade far quicker than fossilization can occur.”

Since the central nervous system was exceptionally well preserved, it allowed for detailed scans and examination. The research team found that despite the alleged age of the fossil being over 300 million years, the organization of the central nervous system in horseshoe crabs has remained essentially unchanged. This is despite the fact that in the evolutionary framework, there would have been major changes to their environment (which includes other creatures including predators) in all that supposed time.

This highlights another example of ‘evolutionary stasis’, i.e. when the supposed evolutionary process, of consistent information-adding mutations, has not been acting for vast time periods. It is also evidence of a rapid fossilization process, before the delicate tissues of the brain had time to deteriorate.

In envisaging the geological conditions required for this, it is easy to see them as present at different times and locations during Noah’s Flood around 4,500 years ago. During the deluge, huge layers of mineral-laden sediment of various types were rapidly deposited, engulfing animals such as the horseshoe crab.

  • Bicknell, R. and 4 others, Central nervous system of a 310-m.y.-old horseshoe crab, Geology 49(11):1381–1385, 2021.
  • Dzombak, R., How fossilization preserved a 310-million-year-old horseshoe crab’s brain; sciencenews.org, 20 Aug 2021.

Denisovans, Neanderthals, and ‘modern’ humans—all one human family

Researchers have found evidence that the ‘mysterious’ Denisovans (identified on the basis of DNA from a few fossil fragments) used stone tools such as scrapers at Denisova Cave in Siberia. These tools are typically used in the processing of animal skins. They also found the remains of three Denisovans together with a Neanderthal in the same rock layer as the tools. In addition, the scientists discovered butchered and burned animal remains suggesting that Denisovans hunted and cooked large game. These remains included deer, gazelles, horses, bison, and woolly rhinoceroses.

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This is a confirmation of earlier research that shows that Denisovans are just a people group that inhabited continental Asia, southeast Asia, and Oceania. The DNA evidence from the initial find showed that Denisovans interbred with ‘modern humans’. It has long been known from DNA that Neanderthals did so, too. And DNA from a Neanderthal-Denisovan offspring has been found, confirming that all three groups interbred together. This means that they are all part of the larger human family and are post-Flood descendants of Noah.

  • Choi, C., Oldest remains of mysterious, extinct human ancestors unearthed in Siberian cave, LiveScience.com, 30 Nov 2021.

Evolution book contains “fanciful speculations”

A (very) short history of life on Earth (288 pp.) is the latest book on evolution by Senior Editor of Nature journal Henry Gee.

Welcoming Gee’s telling of “the 4-billion-year story of life on this planet”, a review of the book in Science journal praises the author’s “dramatic flair”. However, it laments that the book “largely refrains, however, from discussing the mechanisms and agents of evolution”. (A fundamental evolutionary challenge that, as creationists often point out, is glossed over by evolution texts.)

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Furthermore, the Science review’s sharpest criticism is that Gee’s “unbridled enthusiasm” leads him to “downplay some scientific uncertainties in the interest of storytelling.” Indeed, in the book’s endnotes Gee admits to weaving in his own “fanciful speculations”.

This is the same Henry Gee, by the way, who in 2011 commented in Nature: “We have all seen the canonical parade of apes each one becoming more human. We know that, as a depiction of evolution, this line up is nonsense. Yet we cling to it.”

  • Yanai, I. and Lercher, M., Iterations of evolution—A paleontologist’s history of life highlights the recurring role played by geological, climatic, and atmospheric forces, Science 374(6569):828, 12 Nov 2021.
  • Gee, H., Palaeoanthropology: Craniums with clout, Nature 478:34, 6 Oct 2011.

‘De-extincting’ the woolly mammoth to fight global warming

Researchers have long dreamt of bringing back the woolly mammoth from cells found frozen in carcasses in Siberia and Alaska. They had planned to obtain and implant mammoth DNA into the denucleated egg of a female Asian elephant, which is most similar to the woolly mammoth. (But it would be nigh-impossible to obtain intact mammoth nuclear DNA—see creation.com/mammoth-clones.)

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The idea has not died, but this time researchers, led by renowned geneticist Dr George Church, are planning on using CRISPR gene-editing technology to isolate and then insert genes for mammoth-like characteristics into an elephant embryo, then implant it into an Asian elephant. Although having some similarities, it would not strictly be a woolly mammoth.

After producing these ‘woolly mammoths’, the long-range plan is to place them back into the Arctic tundra to fight global warming. The scientists speculate that the mammoth will bring back the Ice Age steppe grassland that absorbs less sunlight than trees. The resulting cooler temperatures would then hold pools of tundra greenhouse gases in ice for longer.

However, the plan is misguided in several ways. First, the Ice Age grassland was caused by a much different climate than today—due to the never-to-be-repeated Flood of Noah’s day. Second, it is doubtful woolly mammoths could even live in Siberia today with its fierce winters and massive bogs, let alone maintain a steppe grassland. And it is unlikely that the reflectivity for sunlight would change because tundra has very few trees today.